3-D printing at first seems like science fiction come to life, the creation of a solid, 3-dimensional object, seemingly out of nowhere. While we don’t quite have Star Trek replicators, these printers are one big step toward easily manufacturing objects. This robot snake was created with the use of a 3-D printer and would no doubt have taken longer to bring to life using normal production methods. By having a 3-D printer in-house, the designers could create a model using computer software and then have those models printed out for immediate prototype use. Since the printers also allow users to tinker with the hardness of the final object, it is also easy to create a variety of different parts, not only so distinct parts with distinct properties can be used together, but also so one can test out which properties will work best.
As you can see in the video, the printed materials are a sort of casing for the wires, batteries, and servos that power the robotic snake. By printing out these cases themselves, the designers can simply insert the mechanics and test out the robot, then make changes as needed. Once the casings are finalized in terms of what will work best, the corresponding 3-D model can be used for more formal production methods to create the final product. As these printers become more popular and cost-effective, production of toys, robots, and a host of other creations will become less of a hassle as designers can churn out quick prototypes and make minor (or major) adjustments without having to wait for some outside company to produce and ship a prototype every time. For other 3-D printed fun, check out this Facial Printing App. For something a bit closer to the futuristic food replicator, don’t miss our article on MIT’s Digital Food Printer.